Jan. 6 rioter who was sentenced in secret provided information to authorities, court papers say
A Pennsylvania man secretly convicted for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot cooperated with authorities investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and an unrelated case, according to court documents filed this week have been released.
The documents provide insight into the unusual secrecy in the case of Samuel Lazar, who was released from federal custody in September after serving his sentence in his Capitol riot case. His case remained under seal even after his release, so there was no public record of a conviction or sentence.
The documents released this week show that Lazar, of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, admitted to spraying a chemical irritant at police officers trying to defend the Capitol and using a bullhorn to encourage other rioters to use their weapons. officers while shouting, “Let's grab their guns!” He pleaded guilty to assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 30 months in prison during a sealed hearing last March.
More than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes related to January 6, and hundreds of them have pleaded guilty. But it is rare for the documents of a guilty plea and verdict to be sealed, even in cases involving a suspect's cooperation. Hearings and records are deemed to be open and available to the public unless there is a compelling need for confidentiality.
The documents show that prosecutors asked the judge last year to sentence Lazar to a prison term below federal guidelines, citing Lazar's “full” cooperation with the government. That included providing “valuable information” to authorities investigating the Jan. 6 attack, prosecutors said in court filings.
An attorney for Lazar declined to comment Thursday. She told the judge that her client's conduct on Jan. 6 was “completely out of character for him as he is an extremely respectful, law-abiding citizen who has a deep respect and appreciation for law enforcement.”
“He blindly followed President Trump's call to 'fight like hell to take back the country,'” attorney Hope Lefeber wrote in a court filing.
The documents were released Wednesday after a coalition of news media, including The Associated Press, moved to publicly release documents in his case. However, the documents were subsequently removed from the court's docket after lawyers said they objected to the release of all the documents and wanted the court to post only blacked-out versions.
Richer reported from Boston.